AN animal lover has been left devastated after a masked man with a hammer broke into his home before stealing four of his valuable puppies.

Nathan Gold, 50, was watching television at his home in Freeland Road, Clacton, just before midnight on Monday when he heard a loud smash.

After going to investigate, Mr Gold was confronted by a hammer-wielding thug who was dressed in black and wearing a ski-mask.

Terrified for his safety, he fled back to his front room and called the police.

The raiders made off with four of his 11-week-old French bulldog puppies.

Leaving behind the litter’s four-year-old mother, Trixie, the cowardly crooks escaped through neighbouring gardens.

Mr Gold believes the attack was planned and says he heard another raider in his house after he rushed to hide.

He said: “I’ve been left shaking, it’s hard to believe what they did.

“The pups were just 11-weeks-old - they were the remaining four dogs from a litter of 10.

“Their mum, Trixie, has been needy today.

“She’s looking at us wondering what’s happened to her babies.

“We’re just in shock and can’t believe people would do this but they’ve looked at the dogs and thought they would make some a lot of money.”

Clacton and Frinton Gazette:

The cream-coloured dogs can sell for up to £2,000 each and in the past decade their popularity has seen them become the country’s most popular dog breed. Nathan had been advertising the puppies but insists their home address was not published and thinks someone tipped off the raiders to the location.

Stepdaughter Katie, 29, who was at a friend’s house during the incident, is concerned the dogs could be used for fighting or the crooks might return for puppies’ mother.

She said: “Nathan called me and was hysterical.

“I worry they’ve been stolen to order and that they might even come back for Trixie.

“I’m devastated someone would do this to us.”

Detectives are investigating the incident as an aggravated burglary.

They have urged anyone with information to contact Clacton CID on 101, quoting crime reference 42/183537/19.